Born in June of 1955 in the dry town where prohibition was born, Evanston, Illinois, Kerry Simon wanted to become a musician (and still has good guitar chops), but soon developed another passion, cooking. At 16, he was working at a Little Caesars Pizza place in Evanston with another New Trier graduate, Bill Murray, who was working to become an actor.
Kerry Simon, after cooking his way through every recipe in Julia Child’s repertoire, and working the line at an upscale Italian restaurant, went on to enroll in the Culinary Institute, and worked as an apprentice on weekends, under the tutelage of French chef Jean Morel in upstate New York, at the Inn L’Hostelerie Bressane. There he learned the art of discipline in a true French kitchen. After graduating, he honed his skills at several New York French restaurants including Great Chef Andre Soltner at Lutèce, and Jean-Jacques Rachou of La Côte Basque. He then went to London for a short time to be a personal chef for Saul Steinberg.
When he heard about a new restaurant opening in New York city under Master Chef Louis Outhier, he presented himself at the door and offered his services for free, just to train under him. Instead, in 1988, he was quickly offered the job of pastry chef, and later sous chef, under the new wunderkind, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was a move that forged a long term friendship and mentor. After two years at the Lafayette, he beat out a number of named chefs to work for Ivana Trump at the New York Plaza Hotel’s newly revamped kitchen at the Edwardian Room. He quickly made a name for himself with exclusive small group dining and “chef’s table”. He entertained celebrities & CEOs, wowing them with his innovative cooking style. Chef Simon became a star in his own right when Rolling Stone named him in 1991 as one of the hottest 100 personalities. In 1992, Ivana Trump left the hotel, and so did Chef Simon.
Chef Kerry Simon moved to South Beach to collaborate on a dinner at the newly renovated Raleigh Hotel. He stayed three years, and at the Raleigh Hotel one night, a movie producer Mitch Glazer, wanted to introduce to Chef Kerry, an actor who he was working with at the time, Bill Murray. Simon said “Bill from Little Caesars”? and Murray said “The Guitar Player”? They’ve been friends ever since.
It was there at the Raleigh, that Great Chefs Television first caught up with Kerry. In 1995, while shooting the Great Chefs-Great Cities series in the Miami area, where we were to tape Chef Kerry, he abruptly quit. We ended up taping Chef Marc Lippmann. But the night before, our producer was treated to a wild ride and evening with Chef Kerry, who was so excited about a new restaurant he was involved with on the beach, and wanted to show him the new kitchen. We promised that we would be back.
Unfortunately that didn’t develop, but then his old friend Great Chef Vongerichten called Chef Kerry to discuss his plans for Vong International with restaurants in New York City, London and Hong Kong. Great Chefs actually filmed Vongerichten in the kitchen of the New York City Vong. That experience led Chef Kerry to the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas where Vongerichten had the concept for a “Prime Steak House”.
“The Prime” is where, in 1999, Great Chefs was able to catch up with Kerry Simon finally, to prepare three dishes for their Great Chefs of America series. Chef Simon prepared an appetizer, Arugula, Fennel and Chanterelle Salad (episode #165); an Oven-Roasted Wild Striped Bass entrée (episode #154); and a dessert Brushetta of Pears & Apples, with Warm Crème Fraîche (episode #136).
In 2001, Elizabeth Blau (who was responsible for bringing all the chefs from around the world into Steve Wynn’s “Bellagio”, and upgrading the culinary scene in Las Vegas), along with Peter Morton (Hard Rock Cafe founder), approached Chef Kerry Simon to co-own Simon Kitchen & Bar at the new Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe which they opened in 2003. In 2014, Chef Kerry Simon was given his own “Window of Fame” at the same casino.
In 2006, with Blau & Associates, he made his move to Los Angeles to open SIMON LA in the Sofitel Hotel. He then went on to open more restaurants, SIMON Prime in Atlantic City and KGB in the Harrah’s Las Vegas.
In 2013, after being diagnosed with MSA, Multiple System Atrophy (fightmsa.org), Chef Kerry is no where close to retiring. He and his partner Cory Harwell, formed the Simon Hospitality Group to run “KGB’s” in the Las Vegas Harrah’s, “Simon at the Palms” in Las Vegas, and the “Simon Mansion” at the Hard Rock in the Dominican Republic.
Earlier this year (2014), he opened the “Carson Kitchen” in the old John E. Carson Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. Kerry Simon, the Rock ‘n Roll Chef, is still rockin’. Good Luck, Kerry!